Faith, they say, can move mountains, but sometimes it takes hard work and dedication to help ensure that they don't go anywhere. In 1915, the town of Orogrande, New Mexico, was once a thriving gold rush community, home to several mining operations -- though the hum of heavy machinery in the nearby mines have since been silenced, replaced by the chatter of wildlife. Recently, however, ten-year-old Caitlyn Larson and her parents discovered something unsettling in the now tranquil landscape: new equipment being assembled to strip a mountain away. That's when the youngster knew something had to be done to stop it.The Jarilla Mountains near Orograde are home to a number of historic mines, like the century old Cinco de Mayo carved into the base of one mountain in particular. But locals became concerned in recent weeks when a new hole was discovered there, along with dozens of pieces of equipment indicating that new activity was afoot. Eventually, word got round to the Larson family, and they decided to check it out themselves.
What they saw were the early stages of environmental devastation; a road had been widened, and prep-work for a new mine begun, uprooting native plants and animals.
After investigating who was behind the activity, the Larsons learned that foreign company, Iron Mining Group (IMG), was planning to strip the mountain of some 6 million tons of ore to be shipped to China -- at the expense of the region's vibrant natural ecosystem.
Faced with the prospect that the many speces that live around the mountain will be displaced, young Caitlyn wrote a press release:
"If the destruction created in the last seven days is any indication of the work they plan to do in the next 90 days (and possibly the next three years, as reported by IMG), there will be no mountains left. They will have been completely destroyed, pulverized and sent to China."
The ten-year-old also reached out to New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, President Obama, and officials from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) appealing for help. Caitlyn, with the help of her parents, even set up a Facebook page devoted to her cause.
Her efforts caught the attention of the director of the New Mexico Mining and Mineral Division, Chuck Thomas, who found that IMG's plans to mine were less than above the board. "The work they are doing is not permitted," he says. Because the planned operation appeared to be on BLM land, a number of permits and authorizations were required before such activity could take place, like holding public hearings and having experts study which species would be affected. IMG had apparently missed these steps.
According to the Alamogordo Daily News, a representative from the mining company called the failure to obtain proper permits as a "misunderstanding." Authorities say they plan on filing orders to have IMG cease operations, effectively saving the mountain -- and the wildlife that lives there -- from being shipped overseas.
For now, at least, it seems that the efforts of Caitlyn, and the hundreds she's inspired, has helped stem the tides of destruction in her backyard -- protecting an untold wealth of plants and animals from losing their mountain home.
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